EPA wants large U.S. vessels to comply with Tier 2 standards by 2011

EPA wants large U.S. vessels to comply with Tier 2 standards by 2011

Engine manufacturers are gearing up to comply with an Environmental Protection Agency (EPA) proposal to cut harmful emissions from U.S.-flagged oceangoing vessels within the next two years, part of a wider strategy to tighten pollution rules on all such ships in the nation’s coastal waters by 2016.

The proposal, announced in July under provisions of the Clean Air Act, would apply to new marine diesel engines with a per-cylinder displacement of 30 liters or more, called Category 3 engines. These engines are primarily used for propulsion in oceangoing vessels and range from 3,000 to 10,000 hp.

Such engines on U.S.-flagged oceangoing vessels are currently subject to the EPA’s Tier 1 standards for nitrogen oxides (NOx) and other pollutants. These Tier 1 standards, which went into effect in 2004, are equivalent to the standards adopted by the International Maritime Organization (IMO) in 1997.

“Category 3 marine diesel engines being produced today must meet relatively modest emission requirements and therefore generate significant emissions of fine particulate matter, NOx and sulfur oxides (SOx),†the EPA stated. “(These emissions) cause harm to public welfare and contribute to visibility impairment and other detrimental environmental impacts across the United States.â€

Under the proposal, tougher Tier 2 standards would apply to newly built engines in 2011. The standards would require better use of current technologies — including engine timing, engine cooling and advanced computer controls — resulting in a 15 percent to 25 percent reduction in NOx, the EPA said.

Manufacturers of Category 3 engines — including Finland-based Wärtsilä and Caterpillar Marine Power Systems’ MaK division in Germany — have already taken steps to comply with the proposed EPA guidelines, which would mirror new rules drafted by the IMO.

The container feeder ship Ruth gets its main propulsion power from a M 43 C manufactured by Caterpillar’s MaK division. Such Catergory 3 engines will soon have to meet Tier 2 standards in the United States and similar IMO Tier II standards.

Mitch Colgan, manager of media relations for Caterpillar Marine, said the company works closely with regulatory organizations to ensure that proposed rules are achievable, given the limits of technology and vessel design.

“We have a line of sight to get the required emission values met,†Colgan said. “We are fully aware and will be prepared come 2011. … We are doing preliminary work now so our transition is seamless.â€

Marit Holmlund-Sund, senior manager of public relations and marketing communications for Wärtsilä, said the EPA announcement was expected and it will not affect delivery times for customers.

“We are redesigning and reoptimizing the whole engine portfolio for IMO Tier II, which is similar to Tier 2 now proposed by EPA. The solutions are in principle ready. The certification procedure for EPA needs to start up as soon as we have the final rule.â€

A second phase of the EPA’s strategy to reduce emissions from oceangoing vessels involves designating thousands of miles of U.S. and Canadian coastline as an emission control area (ECA). If approved by the IMO, all ships operating within 200 nautical miles of the two countries would need to comply.

The ECA guidelines would require ships to use low-sulfur fuel beginning in 2015, resulting in an 85 percent reduction in SOx and particulate matter. In 2016, all oceangoing ships would be required to have diesel engines that achieve an 80 percent reduction in NOx.

The cost of compliance would be $1.85 billion in 2020, the agency estimated, with most of the expense attributable to the use of higher-cost, low-sulfur fuel in the proposed ECA. The cost of applying engine controls to U.S.-flagged vessels is expected to be $32.7 million in 2020, rising to $48.5 million in 2030 as more ships are built to comply with ECA standards, the EPA said.

Holmlund-Sund said Wärtsilä engines are already designed to meet the low-sulfur requirements in ECAs.

“As an alternative to the low-sulfur fuel, Wärtsilä can deliver scrubber solutions (SOx cleaning), making the use of high-sulfur heavy fuel possible in (these) areas,†she said.

Despite the anticipated expense, Colgan said most of Caterpillar’s customers are on board with the proposed rules in a bid to go greener with their operations.

“No one likes to pay more, but when it comes to environmental issues, for the most part, it has been accepted,†he said. “Some companies want to exceed the standards in place now and are requesting cleaner systems today. In some instances, we are able to assist our customers by doing custom work to meet the guidelines early.â€

Rich Miller

By Professional Mariner Staff